Godfather Part III (SE)B,B+
Paramount/1990/170/ANA 1.85

     Sixteen years after The Godfather Part II, Francis Ford Coppola returns to the material that established his place in the pantheon of director greats. The task of living up to the history of the first two Godfather epics is a flat faced mountain at the North Pole. Taken by itself, The Godfather Part III is okay, but in the company of its Godfather fellows, it never even gets a foot up the mountain.
    The memorable moments are few and far between. The attempt to link Godfather III stylistically to the first two films shows far too much strain. The enduring vision of the Godfather III has to be the silent scream of Michael Corleone. It is the one moment internal pain melts through the icy veneer the crime leader. It's a brilliant cinematic moment, worthy of the best of the Godfather films, but alas, it is but a moment in this third, mostly unmoving, even lugubrious vision of the crumbling empire of the Corleone family.

The Vatican takes center stage in the family portrait. ©Paramount

     Is there a sympathetic character in The Godfather Part III? Can you feel for the pain of Michael Corleone? Perhaps at the end of the movie it's possible, but it's too late by then. Let's look at the characters and their basis of reality. Vincent, the illegitimate child of Sonny Corleone: Hello, is the the guy Michael Corleone embraces after he bites the ear of mobster Joe Zaza in half. Vincent is so low class he makes Sonny Corleone appear like Presidential material. Whoops, that was supposed to be Michael. Michael himself is less dangerous, more cardboard, dried out, used up after years of crime calculations dominating his being. Connie Corleone, matronly, the chief sponsor of Vincent, is a non-entity. Mary Corleone is nothing more than a spoiled little rich girl. Joe Zaza is simply a cheap punk in Armani clothing and Don Altobello less cunning and more sneaky. The Corleone family lawyer is nothing more than an anonymous suit. Kay is Kay, cold as Michael in her own way. Even the peripheral characters, the corrupt Cardinal, the chi-chi reporter. I would venture to say the most sympathetic character is the ancient wheelchair-bound Don Tommasino, and he's merely an unimportant but loyal cog. 
     With the script for The Godfather Part III, writer/director Coppola tries hard to up the ante from the previous two films. This time out Michael Corleone really will succeed in moving the Corleone family totally legitimate. In fact, big business gets equated with the same underhanded dealings as the mob. Politics of the highest order, for Coppola, involves the Vatican and Borgia plots of ascension tied to paramount financial concerns. Mafia machinations are less sophisticated and the Corleone family seems nothing more than a shell of the past. Once again the Corleone seat of power is New York, Michael has a new haircut and his big moment is addressing stockholders in a corporate takeover, receiving the Vatican Order of San Sebastian, and doling out the loot to the boys in the silk suits. 
       Family conflicts again take front stage. Michael desperately wants a relationship with his family. His son, to Michael's disappointment, wants to be an opera singer. There's a painful romance between Corleone cousins to endure. Evening the party is nothing more than a sad comment on festivities of the past films. Coppola actually directs a couple of notches above the level of his script. All the production details are excellent as is the continuing cinematography of Gordon Willis, but nothing can overcome the shortcomings of the story telling. The party takes place at Corleone's apartment to celebrate the occasion of his receiving Papal Honors. As in the other Godfather films, while the party unfolds, behind closed doors, other actions take place. 
      Al Pacino once again assays Michael Corleone. His vocal delivery, a scratched whisper, is reminiscent of Brando as Veto Corleone. Pacino is excellent as Michael, but fails to overcome the chains of the script. Andy Garcia plays Vincent with a leer and a swagger ripe enough to fertilize a farm. Sofia Coppola actually plays Mary as scripted, shallow, awkward and innocent. Eli Wallach lays on the accent a bit too thick as Don Altobello. 
     The look and feel of The Godfather Part III DVD is consistent with the overall quality of the three films. Again, grain is delivered in tight patterns. Shadow detail is somewhat flatter, a reflection of a less interesting lighting scheme. Blacks are good, but feel somewhat less lustrous in this DVD. The Papal colors get good exposure. When the blood flows, it's intensely saturated.  The images appear true to the original material. Focus is consistently good. Dolby Digital Surround sound is most aggressive in the casino penthouse sequence. The operatic passages are clean and powerfully recorded.  
    Once again, Coppola provides audio commentary to accompany the images in the special edition. Many of his artistic choices are made clear. Still, it is the final three hours of the amazing task of recording commentary for the Godfather Collection. It's a lot of talking. It is a privilege to have the views of Francis Ford Coppola recorded on these commentaries. It's Coppola's gift to movie lovers and movie historians. I like the irony that Coppola wanted to call the film The Death of Michael Corleone but was coerced by the studio to sticking to the Roman numeral scheme. 




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